Finding it difficult to keep its flock together, Jammu and Kashmir's oldest political party National Conference received another setback on Saturday after Hilal Rather, son of party's ideologue and former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather, joined the Peoples' Conference of Sajad Gani Lone.

"I have decided to join Peoples' Conference on my own. I am here to do positive politics", Hilal said and added that he has not consulted his father before joining the Peoples' Conference and it is his own independent decision. "I respect my father but I have to make my own decisions regarding my future in politics", he said.

Hilal Rather
Peoples' Conference media cell

Earlier on October 2, veteran leader of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and former Legislator, Nizamuddin Bhat had joined the People's Conference.

Bhat, a two time-lawmaker, along with his hundreds of workers from the Bandipora assembly segment had joined the party in presence of its chairman Sajad Gani Lone and other top leaders.

Interestingly Bhat had started his political career from Peoples Conference and fought 1983 and 1987 polls on its ticket from Bandipora. In 1987 polls, Bhat lost by a narrow margin to NC candidate.

Amid rumours of father deserting party, son joins Peoples' Conference

For the last some days there were rumours in the political circles regarding Abdul Rahim Rather joining the Peoples' Conference by saying 'goodbye' to the National Conference. Although Rather has denied leaving the party on Thursday, his son joined the Peoples' Conference today.

"These reports are baseless and wrong. I am not joining Peoples Conference or any other party,", Rather had clarified. Rather, who has represented Charar-e-Sharief constituency for a record 36 years in the erstwhile state assembly, has been inactive in politics for the last couple of years.

Sources said that he has been sidelined in the party after 2014 assembly elections in J&K when Rather lost to PDP, Ghulam Nabi Lone from his citadel. He had won six consecutive assembly elections from Charar-e-Sharief constituency in the central Kashmir Budgam district.

A law graduate Rather was a practicing lawyer from 1971 to 1982 and held important portfolios in the National Conference governments including the post of Speaker.
He also served as Finance Minister several times besides holding Agriculture, Rural Development, Law, and Parliamentary Affairs portfolios.

NC already received a jolt in Jammu after Rana, Slathia join BJP

Notwithstanding claims of party leadership, the National Conference has received a severe jolt in Jammu province after two mass base leaders of the party namely Devender Singh Rana and Surjit Singh Slathia have joined the BJP.

Devender Singh Rana and Surjeet Singh Slathia
Social media account of Rana

A large number of senior leaders of the NC in Jammu, Kathua, and Samba districts have already quitted the party along with Rana and Slathia.
Rana was the most prominent face of the National Conference in the Jammu region. He is the younger brother of Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh.

The exit of Rana and Slathia is considered a major setback to the National Conference as both had a strong influence in the assembly segments represented by them in the past. Rana managed to win the Nagrota assembly segment in the 2014 state polls despite BJP sweeping the Dogra heartland of Jammu.